Training for a Half Marathon on a Treadmill

This blog has documented my training for a small handful of half marathons.

In August 2010, I detailed my workouts and training regimen for the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Last year, I blogged about my training for the Savannah Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon and Women’s Half Marathon in November 2011.

savannah finish

savannah rock n roll half marathon

The first half marathon I ran was back in December 2007, two years before I began blogging. What you may not know about my first half marathon is that I trained for the entire race on the treadmill.

Not once did I run outside before race day.

I completed two week-day five-mile runs on the treadmill and every Sunday I did my long run on the treadmill. (I followed Hal Higdon’s novice training plan.)

Why?

I was a new runner and was intimidated by outdoor running.

I know this probably sounds absolutely crazy to many of you, but running safely on a treadmill took a lot of the “what ifs” out of running. It made it simple, predictable and hard to mess up, which was exactly what I was looking for at the time. I didn’t have a watch to track my distance and pace and figured mapping out a route on MapMyRun.com left a lot of room for error if I went out to tackle a long run on my own since I am directionally challenged.

Now I take running very seriously

turkey trot costumes

Can’t you tell? Winking smile

After receiving an email from a reader inquiring about training for a half marathon solely on a treadmill, I figured it might make an interesting topic for a blog post. The reader said she hates running outside because she gets bored and enjoys catching up on her favorite TV shows while she runs on her treadmill at home.

(Oddly enough, I think the number one complaint for running on a treadmill from most people is that it’s boring, but everyone is entertained in different ways!)

About halfway through training for my first half marathon on the treadmill in 2007, I spoke with a trainer at my local gym in Orlando because I was worried about my training.

The man I spoke with is an amazing runner and flies all over the world working as a pacer for some big-name races. I asked him what he thought about me training for a half marathon by only running on a treadmill and I remember him saying the following:

  • It’s not ideal. Training on a surface similar to the surface you’ll be running on during the race you’re training for is the best thing you can do to properly condition your body for the race ahead.
  • It will work. Running is running. Some people think treadmills make them run slower while others think they make them run faster. If you follow your training plan and do all of your runs on the treadmill, your plan will work and you’ll be able to run a half marathon, just probably not the best half marathon you might be able to run.
  • Add a slight incline. Slightly change the incline every so often to mimic outdoor running. You don’t need to run up a hill, but keeping the treadmill between and 1.0 and a 2.0 is more realistic than having absolutely no incline at all.

I finished my treadmill training and ran the entire race in December 2007, but I was hurtin’! My first half marathon was definitely the most challenging one I’ve run yet (followed closely by the hotter-than-Hades Women’s Half Marathon this year).

Can I attribute this solely to the fact that I only trained on the treadmill?

Of course not!

Running your first half marathon teaches you a lot about training for your second half marathon. I trained for my three subsequent half marathons outside and felt much more prepared for each of those races, but I also paid more attention to proper fueling, among other things. While I personally wouldn’t train for a half marathon by running only on a treadmill again, I know many people adore treadmill running. (Janae even ran an entire marathon on a treadmill, but she’s crazy hardcore.)

So, my runner friends, what do you think?

Other posts relating to half marathon training include:

Questions of the Afternoon

  • Have you ever trained for a race by running only on a treadmill?
  • What do you think about training for a race a treadmill? Can you see both pros and cons to training this way?

Comments

  1. Melissa says

    Thanks for this post. I am training for my first half marathon. I can’t keep up with schedules and I feel safer on the treadmill also.
    It’s good to know it’s possible – even if it’s not the best finish time….I just want to do it and finish it

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  2. Laura says

    Just found this post-hope it’s not too late to add. I prefer the treadmill due to major stomach issues (especially on long runs) so my anxiety level is much lower knowing I’m near a restroom. Not good for race day but it helped calm me down for some long runs. I did 9 miles on the treadmill once, with one bathroom break. It definitely was boring after a while, but I am proud I did the nine miles.

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  3. Ravi says

    I am 47 and started running a little more than a year. Completed a few 5 k in 32 mins, now training for my first half marathon. Been training in treadmill and outdoors, almost 50/50. Been reading a lot of blogs and all I can get from you guys. Thank you.

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    • Meghan says

      I live where during the summer its going to be 90 degrees even at 6 am in the morning. Training on a treadmill is almost a have too. I do plan on doing some of my runs out side but for the sake of safety I need to train on a treadmill. My first half is in November and summers here are no joke.

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  4. Naomi says

    Thanks for this! I am training for my second half but I have had 3 kids since the first one and since none of them are in school yet I got a treadmill to make running easier. I don’t mind running on it most days especially cause I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to running outside in the cold! I am planning to start doing all my long runs outside on the weekend when my hubby is home! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  5. Emily says

    I know this is totally random, but a the top picture in this post of you and Ryan crossing the finish line hand-in-hand popped up on my Facebook feed as a meme from a radio station! I think the caption says “This could be us… but we like pizza and netflix”

    I saw it and was like… hmmm… I think that’s from pbfingers…. and it is! Did you know they were using your picture?? https://www.facebook.com/radionow1009/photos/a.10151489850596395.1073741891.44882876394/10153167222611395/?type=1&pnref=story

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  6. says

    Thank you for this post! I am running my first half in November, but training on anything but a treadmill is going to be rough because A) It’s June in Florida and it’s hot as balls outside B) I have three girls, and they don’t make triple joggers. Thanks for letting me know that it IS possible to train on a treadmill.

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